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Councils issue budget warning to Scottish Government that they have ‘no options left’

Councils have called for the Scottish Budget to deliver a 2.5% increase in local government funding, warning they have “no options left” for savings.

Council umbrella body Cosla today launched a briefing document, outlining its Budget demands including scrapping the 3% cap on council tax and giving local authorities the right to introduce levies such as tourist taxes.

Over the last five years, the Scottish Budget has been reduced in real terms by 0.4%, and local government budgets have seen that reduction times 10 at a time when inflation and rising demand pressures are affecting councils up and down the UK.

Cosla’s report says that “there is no room left for manoeuvre” for Scottish councils, and that unless financial support is given in the 2019-20 budget, “essential services will be at risk resulting in a detrimental impact on communities.”

The report states that the Scottish Government has already committed £325m funding for new policies including expanding Early Learning and Childcare (£210m) and extending free personal care for under 65’s (£30m).

Cosla says that these policies need to be fully funded in addition to ‘core’ local budgets that deliver essential services, and that local government still needs a full baselining of £170m.

Councils have already made a total of £1.7bn in efficiency savings since 2012, which has led to a reduction in reserves by £80m in 2016-17 and the loss of 15,000 staff in the last five years.

The Scottish Government is due to set out its draft budget plans in December

Outlining its budget demands, Cosla asked for a sustainable reform to council tax and local government funding, and for council-run health and social care services to be given a share of health consequential.

The head of Cosla, Alison Evison, said: “Councils have made necessary and significant savings but there are now no options left.

“We cannot be made to cut our essential services without it having a wider, detrimental impact upon our communities.

“We have no capacity to take on additional initiatives, however beneficial the outcomes would be to our communities, unless the financial settlement is increased accordingly.”

The Scottish Government said that councils will receive £10.7bn in 2018-19 through the local government finance settlement and that it has treated councils “very fairly.”

Image credit - georgeclerk

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